It’s an oak leaf, you dummy.
Alert: mouth got away from me. It’s who I am. Sub-alert: 976 words.
Stimson passed by the yard just as I was putting the last of today’s purloined leaves into the third bag. I intended later-on to take sample leaves down the street to compare against oaks there to see which of my inconsiderate hood buddies owns these sommiches. When I got a match, I intended to dump all three bags back under his/her oak. After I rang his/her doorbell and got his/her attention, so s/he could appreciate my returning what was rightfully his/hers to him/her.
I go through this every autumn. Got neighbors so lazy they let their leaves fall and sit, waiting for the wind to deliver them down the street for someone else to worry over. I’m at the end of the street and the foothills across the way curl prevailing winds right back on themselves. You know what that means. Once leaves enter the little wind-valley, they’ve pretty much found the place they want to decompose. Fine, but natural decomposition takes a couple of years, in which time, any grass they pile themselves onto is smothered into extinction.
Including my lawn.
Oaks are nearly the worst. Oaks are still botanically programmed to believe if they hold onto their leaves through the winter, they can shoot sap back into them come spring, turning them green. Looking to economize on cellulose I suppose. It’s a hopeless battle, and at some point oaks either lose interest or give up and dump their load into the winds in not one or two but several unmanageable swarms of coarse leaves not much easier to move or digest than six-inch chunks of two-by-four.
Maples aren’t so bad. When maples start to shed, it’s fairly-well an all-at once thing. Maple leaves as a rule are generally thinner and lighter than oak, easy to bag or shred, environmentally expedient. Or in small doses they chew-up nicely into quickly decomposing thatch for a manicured lawn.
Ornamental cherry trees are the best, model arbor denizens, starting their molt in late summer, depositing litter composed of small leaves in modestly sized batches across several weeks. What the wind doesn’t immediately spirit away is quickly shredded and mulched by any self-respecting lawn mower. Seems when the lovely pink or white cherry blossoms begin to fall, soon thereafter the leaf molt begins. Within a few weeks, cherry trees are naked and ugly, their leaves blown away or safely mulched to nourish neighbors’ sod.
With a mistaken reputation as the beauty queen of the southern lawn, magnolias are the worst. Damned things drop ugly, heavy, coarse leaves all year long. People with magnolia trees in their yards, supposing themselves plantation owners, therefore societally above physical exertion, never rake leaves. All year long, magnolia leaves litter lawns throughout the neighborhood. Oddly, that excludes lawns landscaped with magnolias. I have seen and heard lawn mower blades ruined when their operators try to run over itinerant magnolia leaves. More than one commercial lawn mowing service has called for backup equipment when their primary machine was ruined on a quarter acre lot littered with the big brown bastards.
Stimson started it. He should have known better. “Not as many leaves this year as last, huh?” I just looked at him with my trademark look of disgust (registered, U.S. Patent Office) that says to even the uninitiated: ‘Have you lost your flippin’ mind?’ Pretty sure Stimson wished he’d kept walking past my side yard as soon as he recognized the beauty of my look. “Okay,” he continued, “seem to be spread out a lot more.”
“Only thing good I got to say about it right now is at least it’s not raining to make the boogers heavier and picking them up messier.”
“Not too cold though. Worse when it’s colder.”
“Yeah. Temperature’s gonna drop this weekend.”
“Means more of the oaks up the street are gonna finish dropping leaves.”
“Naw. This is the third time I’ve raked. Look to have to do it again several more times before it’s over.”
“Pain in the pookiss. You still composting?”
“Too many anymore. Don’t have room.”
“What you gonna do?”
“Imma deliver these bags to their proper owner up the street.”
“Naw! You ain’t?”
“You can’t tell where they come from.”
“Only three yards up the street with oaks. One bag each. Reckon they’ll be happy to get their property back.”
“You call me before you go. I wanna see this. Be another circus!”
“Leaving now. You can carry a bag if you want.”
“Not me. I remember what happened last year.”
“That was the dork whose magnolia died. Filled the street with leaves. Three kids on skateboards suffered injuries when they pranged into the mess they caused. Idiot had it coming. He had a responsibility to tend his mess.”
“Not that one. One I’m talking about is when you were setting to go have at with the guy blowing leaves into the street from his yard. That woulda been a pip!”
“I apologized to him.”
“Yeah, the missus told me about that. Why? I mean since it never came to a confrontation.”
“I was thinking bad things about the man. When I saw him blow all the leaves from the block into a pile and his wife vacuum them up and toss them into a bin, I felt bad.”
“Felt myself an ass. Was, too. Judged the man not knowing his intentions. I was worse than wrong. Needed to tell him I admired what he did same time I apologized for assuming the worst for no reason.”
“So now he assumes you’re an idiot? Thinks you some kind of loony crank?”
“Am a crank. Not loony, but a crank. Doesn’t make any difference.”
“I know I was wrong. That matters more than it does that he knows I was fixing to be bad wrong. Owned up to it. Learned a lesson.”
Grow up some every day. Looking out the office window, I see leaves are again piling up on the front lawn. Time to get the rake out.